THE SANTA CLARA
October 16, 2014
Nearly 1 in 5 women in the United States have either been raped or suffered an attempted rape, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
One. In. Five.
Based on the national average, of 2,711 female undergraduates, 452 women at Santa Clara are likely to fall victim to sexual assault during their lifetimes.
This figure is abhorrent. That is nonnegotiable. However, there is another rape statistic that necessitates discourse.
Roughly 80 percent of sexual assaults go unreported to law enforcement. That number, from The National Research Council, highlights a major problem in our society.
In America — supposedly the most free and equal nation in the world — 8 in 10 sexual assaults are swept under the rug with the only lasting record of the crime being the decades of nightmares, trust issues and emotional scarring that the survivors must face.
That problem is clearly reflected at this university.
Santa Clara’s 2014 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report puts the number of students who were sexually assaulted on campus in the last three years at a mere eight students.
Out of 2,711 students, eight women is hardly the 20 percent of the female student body that the national average suggests will be assaulted.
Given this statistic the question arises, why is sexual assault so drastically underreported?
Junior Jennie Robinson offered a possible answer when she recounted the process that her friend, a victim of sexual assault, underwent during her attempt to report her attack.
“Three rounds of her having to tell her story and being forced to go through that feeling again,” Robinson said. “I can’t imagine how hard it was for her.”
Obviously, the necessity of a just investigation that protects the rights of all parties cannot be overlooked. On the other hand, when victims of sexual assault are forced to relive their experience in vivid detail, all while fielding confrontational questions regarding their role in the event, their rights seem anything but accounted for.
Additionally, the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution states gives the accused the right to face their challenger.
Therefore, victims of sexual assault must repeatedly relive one of the worst moments of their lives, while the perpetrator of the crime, often a close associate of the victim, is allowed to challenge every aspect of both their testimony and their integrity.
The fact that even 2 in 10 victims brave such oppressive scrutiny is surprising.
To combat this, two steps must be taken.
First and foremost, society cannot blame the victims of rape. Victims of sexual assault have suffered more than enough, and they should never have to endure humiliation at the hands of their peers for the vile actions of their perpetrators.
Secondly, “rape shield” laws must be expanded to further protect victims. In their current state, such laws prevent defendants from introducing evidence of victims’ sexual behavior, history or reputation.
With the prospect of having to face their abuser once more deterring 8 in 10 victims from reporting their assault, the current steps in place to protect victims are insufficient.
Revising current rape shield laws to limit or even eliminate contact between victims of sexual assault and their aggressors would be a major step in fixing the system.
There is legal precedent for such a drastic idea. The 1990 Supreme Court case Maryland v. Craig found that in the case of child abuse, face-to-face confrontation between the victim and the perpetrator could be limited to protect the abused.
Rewriting constitutional law is a highly controversial and radical measure. But the Constitution was drafted to protect the rights of American citizens. Presently, 1 in 5 American women are being sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, while 8 in 10 perpetrators face no consequences.
Controversial and radical measures are needed.
Thomas Curran-Levett is a junior political science major and the editor of the Opinion section.